NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) — Several of the Air Force’s space commanders spoke on a panel about the significance of Air Force space operations and its undeniable importance to national defense during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference Sept. 19, 2017.
The Air Force is the lead service for space and has the vast majority of the Defense Department’s space systems, personnel and budget with 36,000 Airmen at 134 different locations.
The panel highlighted that space capabilities provide an unmatched advantage to joint warfighters on the battlefield, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by potential adversaries. This means space assets, like GPS, which allow directions on smart phones, and other complicated networks that enable multi-domain command and control, are more threatened.
“Largely, since 1991, our Air Force has been focused on integrating space capabilities into theater operations, and we have done so in a relatively benign domain,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command.
As space rapidly evolves into a warfighting domain, the Air Force is adjusting their strategy to ensure our nation is prepared to fight and win.
“Like the Air Force chief of staff said earlier, space superiority is no longer a birth right,” said Raymond. “In the future we may have to fight for that space superiority if we get into a high-end fight.”
Members of the panel highlighted key space capabilities, in addition to GPS, that are key to the nation’s defense, such as military satellite communications and the early warning mission to detect ballistic missile launches.
“Today we are approaching 20 different nations with ballistic missile capability and dozens of different missile types,” said Col. David Miller, 460th Space Wing commander at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. “With that, you get a sense of just how important the (missile warning) responsibility we have is.”
To meet the threat, the Air Force is leading the modernization of space systems; transforming the way Airmen train, develop and employ space forces and evolving operations centers. It’s also working to streamline acquisition processes, to ensure the combatant commanders have the space capabilities needed to win today’s and tomorrow’s fight.
Though the service is undoubtedly ready to defend space, it’s not looking for a fight.
“I want to stress that we don’t want (a space) conflict, we are all about deterring that conflict, but being prepared for that conflict,” said Raymond. “We are focused on getting ready so we can deter a fight in space because, in my opinion, nobody wins that fight, and that’s why we come to work everyday.”